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Les Dudek Played with Them All

Les Dudek, who is one of the many great guitarists who run a bit under the radar, had an interesting history by the time he was born, according to Wikipedia. His mom was a Radio City Rockette from Brooklyn and his dad was in the Navy. Dudek was born in 1952 at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, RI.

uDiscoverMusic’s Richard Havers poses an interesting question: Just what is southern rock? He comes up with a good answer: “Southern Rock has one big foot firmly in the blues, another, maybe slightly smaller foot in country music and it all comes together in a unique style that has Elvis, Jerry Lee, Muddy and Buddy as its musical God parents while travelling along a road that’s entirely its own. The spiritual home of this music is Macon, Georgia where Phil Walden founded Capricorn Records whose artist roster read like a who’s who of Southern Rock. There was Wet Willie, Grinderswitch, Elvin Bishop, The Marshall Tucker Band and of course The Allman Brothers Band.” Les Dudek played more than a small role in that history. Click here on the image for links to his albums. Check out Dudek’s eponymously titled album at iTunes. Click here or on the image for the album at Amazon.
Dudek, who grew up in Florida, asked for a guitar for Christmas when he was ten years old. He took to it – a bit of an understatement – and developed a local reputation. He broke through and ended up playing on some of the most important albums of his generation, including Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and Boz Scagg’s “Silk Degrees,” both in 1976.

Two years later, Dudek reached what many would consider the height of his career by working with The Allman Brothers on the “Brothers and Sisters” album.

This extended excerpt is from an interview Dudek gave Swampland’s Michael Buffalo Smith in January 2001. In another interview – for some reason, there are lots of Q&As with Dudek — “Peter” is identified as keyboard player Peter Celeste.

How did you hook up with The Allman Brothers Band?

I had a band in Florida called Power at the time and we were doing a lot of shows trying to get a deal in those days. The keyboard player knew Dickey Betts real well because he had grown up in Venice, Florida and Dickey was from Sarasota. When Duane died we heard that Dickey was going to start a band separate from the Allman Brothers. He was auditioning players and Peter found out about it and said why don’t we go up there and see what’s going on. So, we went up and hung out with Dickey for a weekend, jammed with him on the back porch there in Macon. We said our goodbyes and went on home and then I got the call back. So, I went back to Macon and was working out with Dickey and then Gregg caught wind of the fact that Dickey was doing his own band and kind of threw a hissy on that so Dickey kind of backed out of it. That band with Dickey did some demos for Phil Walden and we were supposed to be getting something happening but it never came about.

So, they started on the Brothers and Sisters album and I was down there one night when they were cutting “Ramblin’ Man” and Dickey would come over and say “What do you think about this?” and I’d throw a couple of ideas at him. Then he’s go back out and do it and come back and say, “What about this?” (laughs) He was talking about the guitar parts. Finally, he said to hell with it, “why don’t you just come out here and play with me?” That’s how we ended up doing “Ramblin’ Man.”

And you played on “Jessica,” too?

I co-wrote that one. I never got any credit for it. Dickey says he still feels bad about that. Maybe one of these days he’ll write me a check (laughs) and put my name alongside his. He was really stumped on that one. We were at his house there in Macon. At the time, I was rooming with Joe Dan Petty, who just died recently. He had wanted me to be in Grinderswitch with him. He was starting a band and that’s when I turned him on to Larry Howard and Rick Burnette, cats that were playing with me down in Florida at the time. One night, I was over at Dickey’s when they were still doing the Brothers and Sisters album. Dickey had the one part of “Jessica” written, the melody on the verse section. He said, “Play this, man. Let’s see if we can do something with it.” We kicked it around for 45 minutes or so and my girlfriend and his wife were in there cooking us steaks, so he got frustrated with it and put his guitar down. I kept messing with it and I came up with the bridge. I said, “Dickey, come here a minute, man.” (laughs) I said, “Play this after you play that.” He said, “What do we do next?” I said, “Walk it all the way up to the top and stop.” He said, “Well, what do you do after that?” I said, “Start over!” (laughs) He was just ecstatic. We ended up not even eating our steaks. We threw the guitars in the back of the pickup; he wanted to go and play it for everybody. Right when we did it, it started snowing in Macon. It was kind of a spiritual moment, how it all came to be.

Dudek had a personal and professional relationship with Cher and played with Dave Mason, Stevie Nicks, Bobby Whitlock (a member of Derek and the Dominos), Maria Muldaur and others. He also has released solo albums and even had a very brief stint in 1989 with Steppenwolf.

Unfortunately, there is not much quality video of Dudek and his website doesn’t work well. A bio that probably originated at the site was posted by BB King’s New York City club to promote an appearance by Dudek in 2015. It describes his work with Cher, which included an acting gig in the movie “Mask.”

His two biggest songs are “Old Judge Jones” (which is below) and “City Magic.” “You Make Me Ill” is above.

uDiscoverMusic was cited in the blue box.

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